As much as we may not want to admit it, we do have relatives we love more than others. It's not that we don't love all our relatives, but some just have special places in our hearts. Two of my favorite cousins (I have three by the way) always lived away. Growing up they lived in Oregon and could only come back here every couple of years. I remember as a child, Mom would say, "Randy and Julie are coming," and I would be so excited. I couldn't wait until they got here.
We would meet at my grandmother's house in the sprawling metropolis of Jerusalem, Arkansas. They were usually here in Arkansas for two or three weeks and we would have the best time. Once we decided to explore the back roads of Jerusalem and walked for hours before we finally found a familiar landmark. The problem was we were still hours from my grandmother's house and exhausted. Thankfully, another cousin of ours (by marriage) came along and took us home.
Those were great times, but then we all grew up and started pursuing our adult lives and as it happens, we drifted apart. I can't remember the last time I saw or even heard from Julie, but I think it's close to 20 years, now. It was 14 years ago in April since I last saw Randy when he visited me before moving back to California. He'd been in Oklahoma and we actually communicated some that year, but then he moved away again and we lost touch until last Christmas.
Over the last five or six years, Randy has suffered from kidney failure and has been on dialysis. At the same time, he has been having heart problems, which steadily worsened over the last two years. I worried for him, thought of him often, and told myself I needed to write, but it wasn't until the card came that I finally did write. It took me two months, but I answered his card telling him like he had me that I thought of him often and remembered all the good times we had as kids. I gave him my email and said I was much better at keeping in touch by email.
Over the last month or so, Randy's health has deteriorated even more and within the last few weeks, I've had that nagging feeling I needed to write him again and tell him how much he means to me. Of course, I would be somewhere or doing something that didn't lend itself to writing and so I'd tell myself I'd do it soon. If I hear he's still declining, I'll do it. I told myself again Sunday, I need to write him...I'll do it. And Sunday, I had all the time in the world to tell him I loved him.
Randy died this morning. And suddenly as I heard mom telling me over the phone right after lunch today, I realized even on Sunday, there was no more time left to write Randy and tell him what he had meant to me. I cried in my office all afternoon because I loved my cousin even if we had barely communicated in the last 14 years, and I cried because of regret for not staying in touch when I knew he was really sick.
And, I'm writing this post today to remind anyone who reads it to not act as if you have all the time in the world to let the people you love know how you feel about them. You have right now, so don't put it off. Time may be up for you or the person you long to tell one last time, "You were so special to me. I love you, cousin."